'YOU'RE GONNA HAVE TO GET CREATIVE'
The conference shut down all remaining athletic activity for its member programs several weeks ago, including cancellation of the rest of the Sun Belt basketball tournament and all its spring sports as well.
With stay-at-home orders in place for most of the states that the league’s schools represent, teams can’t practice either.
There is virtual coaching instead, with permissible hours per week for that varying conference by conference.
And the Sun Belt does permit student-athletes like those from UL and its other schools who remain on campus and did not return to their respective hometowns to maintain physical therapy appointments on an as-needed basis.
Otherwise it’s everyone on their own to maintain workout routines, doing so in mostly makeshift manner and with some degree of guidance from people like UL strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke.
On one of his Twitter videos posted on what he calls a “money-making Monday,” Hocke discussed with his followers a plan for reps of pushups, situps, pulls and chair dips.
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Because of the coronavirus crisis, UL strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke, shown here during a homecoming pep rally last season, can't work hands-on with Ragin' Cajun football players this spring. (Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
“You’re gonna have to get creative with it,” he said with reference to the pulls. “Maybe use a desk. … Maybe a dumbbell — you can do dumbbell rows.
“I use the bench in the park. … Find a way.”
Some Cajun football players have posted improvised workout videos on Twitter, including quarterback Brayden Hawkins, who in one is doing shrugs in his driveway with a detached monster truck tire.
In another, he’s walking his benchpress bar — loaded down by weights on each side — into the garage.
UL baseball player Hayden Cantrelle, a top Major League Baseball Draft prospect, posted a video of himself sprinting up an incline to work on his base-stealing speed and playing throw-and-catch with his girlfriend.
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Former Cajuns football strength and conditioning coach Lewis Caralla, now at Georgia Tech, posted a video of himself walking through a neighborhood park doing lunges while holding his three children.
UL offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Rob Sale’s sort-of-not-really workout video is more lighthearted, showing him belly-flopping across a backyard Super Slide mat as his two boys look on.
Ex-UL All-American offensive lineman Kevin Dotson, a likely pick in this month’s NFL Draft, has a video in which he’s pulling a full-size pickup truck backward — with fishing poles, incidentally, protruding from the bed.
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Then there’s the video with current Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis, who delivered this to-the-point message: “I know it’s hard for anybody to prepare for any of this, but I just hope y’all stay safe, stay strong and keep God first.”
Whatever it takes, in other words.
'LET'S HANDLE OUR BUSINESS'
UL football coach Billy Napier compared the situation to how high school signees prepare for their first offseason training camp, before they’ve actually set foot on campus as a scholarship player.
“We send a workout plan to those players,” he said.
In those instances, though, the incoming freshmen have a gym — at their high school, somewhere in their hometown — where they can work out.
Then there’s the classroom side for the current Cajuns who, if it weren’t for the deadly pandemic, would be heading into their final week of spring practice.
“The difference here,” said Napier, who lost 12 of 15 practices and whose team spring game originally scheduled for Thursday was canceled, “is that academically they’re having to function as a remote student.
“All the classes are online, so we’ve got procedures in place to make sure we’ve got checks and balances and accountability from an academic standpoint, and then you’ve got the strength and conditioning piece, which has been a challenge.”
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A few days after sports were shut down in mid-March, members of the Bob Marlin-coached Cajuns basketball team met with Christy Alford, UL’s assistant director of athletics for student-athlete academics services.
“She went over everything for the remote access and what we needed to do moving forward,” said Marlin, who added that Alford had “a detailed plan.”
On Twitter, UL’s academic support staff quickly sent out a message pleading with athletes to “contact your academic counselor if you do not have computer or internet access so that we can help you navigate these issues.”
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The instructions from baseball coach Deggs to his team the day he learned the season had been halted, meanwhile, were simple.
He said told his Cajuns, “Let’s handle our business in the classroom and make great decisions off the field.”
“My biggest message,” Deggs said, “was we were good when the season ended; we’re gonna be really good next year; make sure you’re eligible for that, and let’s finish strong in the classroom.”